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Missouri State Highway Patrol orders militia report shut down

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 | 5:00 p.m. CDT; updated 3:49 p.m. CDT, Friday, March 27, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — Uproar over a law enforcement document linking various right-wing organizations with the modern militia movement prompted the Missouri State Highway Patrol on Wednesday to cease distribution of the report.

Outrage over the report had been brewing for weeks among conservatives who say they're unfairly singled out as possible criminals. On Wednesday morning, that anger spilled into the Capitol when Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder said the head of the Department of Public Safety should be placed on administrative leave pending an investigation of the report.

The Feb. 20 document provides a history of the militia movement and a description of its members. It was intended only for law enforcement officers but has been leaked to the public.

The report says many militia members subscribe to fundamentalist Christian, anti-abortion or anti-immigration movements. It also says members are usually supporters of third-party presidential candidates, such as U.S. Rep. Ron Paul.

"It's really, really disturbing to see yourself (in a report like this)," said Mike Ferguson, spokesman for the Missouri Libertarian Party. "Half the state of Missouri is lumped in with these violent, dangerous people."

The outcry prompted James Keathley, the superintendent of the highway patrol, to stop distributing the document to law enforcement officers. In a letter released Wednesday afternoon, Keathley also said he will create a process that ensures he and Department of Public Safety Director John Britt will read all future reports before they are released.

"Had that report been reviewed by either my office or by leaders of the Department of Public Safety, it would never have been released to law enforcement agencies," Keathley said.

Kinder's office said that letter does not go far enough.

"This is about policy and procedure going forward," said Kinder spokesman Gary McElyea. "That answers no questions about what has been done thus far."

At a news conference Wednesday morning, Kinder said the report's damage had been done: "You cannot un-ring the bell."

The document was compiled by the Missouri Information Analysis Center, a fusion center in Jefferson City that combines resources from various federal and state agencies to collect intelligence to combat terrorism or criminal activity.

Elsewhere, fusion centers have come under fire from privacy advocates for what critics call domestic spying. In Maryland, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit over the Department of Homeland Security's role in state police undercover surveillance of anti-death penalty protesters and peace activists.

And in Texas, a recent fusion center memo to law enforcement groups urged monitoring of Muslim civil rights groups and anti-war protesters.

A congressional hearing on the issue by the House Homeland Security Intelligence Subcommittee is set for April 1.

The Missouri report says militia leaders exploit world events to increase membership. Among other topics, it mentions the theory that a North American Union will be formed to link Mexico, the U.S. and Canada to a common currency. The report says the Kansas City "smart port," a hub for trade to Mexico, is at risk for attack.

The report also reads: "It is not uncommon for militia members to display Constitutional Party, Campaign for Liberty, or Libertarian material."

Britt wrote a letter on Monday to Paul and former presidential candidates Bob Barr and Chuck Baldwin, saying the report would be reissued without their names.

Kinder said the report is unfair because it mentions anti-abortion and anti-illegal immigration groups but does not include domestic terror groups associated with fundamentalist Muslims or extreme environmentalists.

Groups such as the Earth Liberation Front have burned SUVs and large homes or condos, arguing they're environmentally unfriendly.

"Apparently it's more important to focus on pro-lifers," Kinder said. "Conservatives are part of the backbone of our country. We are not a threat."

Ferguson, with the Libertarian Party, said profiling either liberal or conservative groups has a chilling effect on political expression.

___

Associated Press Writer Alan Scher Zagier in Columbia contributed to this report.

 


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Comments

Donald White March 26, 2009 | 6:46 p.m.

What I can't understand is why Missouri's Govenor chose to initially support this agency and its scandously slur on a group of fine Americans? Has he lost his mind? And, please, can anyone tell me were local militias are causing trouble. Where are militias and where do you join? Seems to me it was a bunch of illegal aliens with subtle connections to the government that committed 9/11, but in reading the Patriot Act 1, 2; it looks like government agencies think we Americans are plotting against ourselves and we need to be controlled by loss of liberties. What we need is limited government...oops..I might be a terrorist!

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro March 26, 2009 | 9:49 p.m.

--Why haven't other groups come to advocate for the Libertarians' right to be Libertarians? I haven't met one Libertarian I like, but that doesn't mean that they don't have the right to be unlikeable.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 26, 2009 | 10:20 p.m.

Because we Libertarians acted like big boys and girls and worked the problem instead of whining about it. We also weren't the only groups maligned by the report - the Constitution Party and the folks at Campaign for Liberty (Ron Paul's group) worked the media and legislators as well. After talking to Chris Kelly last Friday, I can tell you that some of the Republicans and Democrats in Jeff City saw the same problems we did and expressed their grumpiness about the report, so it wasn't like we were alone against the world.

Now the Republicans and Lt. Governor Kinder smell a little opportunity to (rightfully, IMO) ding Governor Nixon on his previous support for the MIAC report. With the issue turning a bit more partisan, Fired Up Missouri and the Post-Dispatch's blog finally see fit to weigh in on the report two weeks late.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro March 26, 2009 | 10:43 p.m.

John:
I'm glad they rallied and resolved.
Do you know where I can get some anti-grumpy pills. I think I'm running low.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jr9hPbYm...

(Report Comment)
Jessica Cherry March 27, 2009 | 5:35 p.m.

Why do law enforcement officers need this list? We're allowing them to target Americans will strong (conservative/libertarian) opinions and that really scares me.

(Report Comment)

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